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A Few Handy Tips To Help Prevent Your Bike From Getting Stolen

By Stephen Gossett in News on May 24, 2017 6:40PM

Locking Foul / Flickr / Photo: Seth Vidal

What with last season's fake winter, we were never really tempted to hop off the bike. But now that the warm-weather months have officially arrived, more and more people will be pedaling across the city. But more bikes on the road of course also means more theft opportunities. So it's a good time to take stock of some anti-theft basics. There's no way to make your bike impervious to to thieves, but here are few good options for decreasing the likelihood.

First, get a good, solid U-lock. Cable locks may be cheaper, but there's a reason: they're much less secure. Thieves would naturally gravitate to a cable-locked bike over a U-locked one. There's also plenty of debate as to whether a U-lock is more secure than a chain lock. Neither is perfect—and bulky, heavy chains definitely have drawbacks in terms of easy mobility—but either is a better call than a cable. Again, don't go cheap, but you can also get a reliable piece without breaking the bank.

And at the risk of sounding obvious, if you can take your bike inside once you reach your destination, take your bike inside! Don't leave your precious sitting out overnight, and don't leave it unlocked when you go inside somewhere, even for the teensiest moment. It takes even shorter for a thief to jump on and take off.

Also, make sure to always go through the frame (ideally the frame and the wheel), and not just the wheel. A cable or a second U-lock to secure the other wheel is strongly recommended.

Actually, the fine cycling-advocate folks at Active Transportation Alliance put together a handy video that goes over some of these and other best practices, including what to lock up to (bike rikes, good; sucker poles, bad)

Aside from the lock-up logistics, you should take proactive steps to protect your ride. It's a smart idea to register your bike. The National Bike Registry is the most well-known, but you should also register with the Chicago Police Department, which updated its online registration this year. The odds aren't great in terms of getting back a stolen bike, but this can help.

Also, keep a copy of your bike's serial number for your records. You can usually find it stamped underneath the bottom bracket shell on your bike. Or you can ask your friendly neighborhood bike shop for help in locating it if you don't see it there. And take note of your specs, too: make, model, etc.

There are other, locally-specific resources available, too. Chicago isn't among the preeminent bike-friendly cities in the country (or even the most) just because we have decent infrastructure. The Chicago Stolen Bike Registry is an invaluable grassroots tool after you file a police report, if you are unlucky enough to suffer an unconscious uncoupling. Also, regardless of whether or not you've been victimized, get active in The Chainlink, where users look out for one another. And if you lose your bike, keep an eye out at big markets like Maxwell Street or Swap-O-Rama, where stolen rides infamously tend to show up. As the Reader explored in a great piece in 2014, the community looks out for one another, so join the community!

As we said before, there's no such thing as a theft-proof bike. Even if you do everything right, you might still end up wronged. Just take a look at this recent example for Exhibit A:

But if you take a few smart, mitigating steps—some more great advice is available here and here; we really like "uglification"—you'll improve the odds that your bike remains yours.